Is it ever too late to start learning a foreign language?
Have you ever wanted to learn a new language but kept putting it off and now it feels like it’s too late? We at Vandu languages are here to show you why language learning doesn’t need to start at primary school, and in fact, there are some benefits to starting to learn a language later in life.
Below are just a few of the advantages of learning a language as an older adult, how it could benefit you and how you can start to make it happen.
Make your minutes and hours count
Time is often one of the biggest factors that holds people back from getting started with learning a new language. It’s often asked, ‘How many hours does it take to learn a new language?’ or ‘how many minutes each day do I need to spend studying a language? The answer for how long it takes to learn a language depends on factors such as your native tongue, the language you want to learn, if you’re around other people who speak the language, and how fluent you’re aiming to be. Depending on your language goals, you can spend as little as five or fifteen minutes learning each day, if you don’t want to commit to many hours or more structured lessons. It’s not just the quantity of hours spent learning that counts, it’s more about the quality of your learning. The key is consistency and regular practice.
Take ownership of your schedule
One of the positives to come out of lockdown for many has been the increase in flexible and remote working. Many employers are seeing that work can be completed just as efficiently from home, meaning that many employees are saving time on commuting and can find a work/life balance that works for them. If learning a language is a goal for you, now is the perfect time to take ownership of your schedule. Make appointments for language practice in your calendar for example, whether it’s for fifteen minutes a day or blocking out an afternoon for classes (if work permits).
If you’ve already retired, learning a language could be a worthwhile new project. With more time available, there’s a real opportunity to try new things you could never focus properly on before.
Meet like-minded people
We live in a time when feelings of social isolation are increasing, with less face-to-face interactions and more focus on the digital. Learning a language gives opportunities for friendships with other like-minded people working towards a common goal. Taking classes is a great way to socialise outside of the house but if in-person meetings aren’t possible there are plenty of ways to connect with people and learn languages together online.
Create meaningful connections as you travel
One of the perks of having a more flexible work schedule may be spending extended periods of time abroad, or perhaps after retirement you have the luxury of months away or even a permanent move abroad. If interesting conversations is one of your language goals then a good tip is to build your vocabulary around your own interests. That way you can express yourself and go beyond the basics by sharing details about your life and learning about others.
Use language to extend your family tree
Learning a language could very well be the key to connecting with a relative who doesn’t speak the same native tongue as you. With the rise in popularity of home-testing DNA kits like Ancestry and MyHeritage, learning your heritage language is a great way for many adults to connect to their roots and maybe even distant family members from across the world.
Keep your brain active while enjoying the learning process
Studies show that learning languages are a good way to keep your brain active and protect against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. With age, for many, comes acceptance and becoming comfortable with their life achievements, so it’s less about proving themselves and more about trying new things and enjoying the process. Also don’t be afraid to practice speaking to perfect your accent, even if you make mistakes and think you sound silly! This is a key difference between adults and children who often care less about what others think.
People often ask ‘How do I get motivated to learn a language?’ While there’s no one-size-fits-all, having a clear goal in-mind helps. Learning a language is a bucket-list achievement for many, a way to stay mentally sharp for others, or a way to connect with people. Think about not only what you want to achieve but why you want to achieve it—this is a huge help in getting and staying motivated on a regular basis.
We’ve only just touched the surface of the many personal and professional development benefits of learning a language. Once you’ve decided to try it, the next step is to actually get started! Here are some practical ways you can develop your language skills right from the comfort of your home.
At Vandu Languages, we work with people from all ages and backgrounds and know the value of language as a tool for business and personal connections. Feel free to contact us to learn about our translation, interpreting, and bilingual advocacy services.